The Torah tells us that Hagar sat an archer's distance away from Yishmael as he lay crying, Genesis 21 verse 16. After he is miraculously saved he lives in the desert and is described as a רובה קשת, also some connection to archery, see verse 20. Is there some deeper understanding to this seemingly coincidental occurrence?

  • +1. I do recall hearing something about the military-minded thinking in military terms, but I don't remember where I heard that. If I find a source I'll write up an answer.
    – MTL
    Nov 10, 2014 at 1:50
  • @Shokhet interesting. You mean momma Hagar was a fighter too and the Torah wrote the distance between them from her perspective?
    – user6591
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:01
  • Could be. I'll have to see if I could find where I heard that.
    – MTL
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:02
  • This section was not written "by tradition" or the details of what happened passed down by Ishmael, but was, like all of B'reshit, dictated to Moshe by Hashem on Har Sinai
    – CashCow
    Nov 10, 2014 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Ovadya miBartenura (עמר נקא, בראשית כ"א ט"ז) explains that Hagar moved farther away than would be necessary to merely avoid seeing Yishmael's suffering and death. The reason for the extra distance is that Yishmael was an archer (per verse 20), and Hagar was concerned that Yishmael might become delirious and try to shoot her with his arrows. Therefore, she distanced herself beyond the range of his arrows.

כמטחוי קשת כשתי טיחות: מקשין העולם, למה היתה צריכה להרחיק כשתי טיחות אם לא נתרחקה אלא על שאמרה אל אראה במות הילד? ומתרצין לפי שישמעאל היה רובה קשת ושמא מפני כובד החולי יצא מדעתו ויזרוק בה חץ. לפיכך לא היה די לה להרחיק טיחה אחת ונתרחקה כשתי טיחות

  • I saw this in Otzar Plaos HaTorah
    – sam
    Nov 11, 2014 at 2:39
  • 3
    Interesting answer, but it seems forced. Reading the verses, it doesn't seem like she's afraid of being shot by her son. The Torah makes the reason clear: "so that she shouldn't witness the death of her son". Oct 28, 2015 at 11:38
  • 1
    @EliezerSteinbock R' Ovadya MiBartenura isn't saying that Hagar primarily left her son for safety. He is simply explaining why the parenthetically mentioned distance was greater than necessary to avoid seeing Yishmael die. Had she stayed to supervise Yishmael, she could have prevented him from getting access to his bow. Since she was leaving anyway to avoid seeing him die ("וַתֵּשֶׁב לָהּ מִנֶּגֶד... כִּי אָמְרָה אַל-אֶרְאֶה בְּמוֹת הַיָּלֶד"), the Torah parenthetically interpolates "הַרְחֵק כִּמְטַחֲוֵי קֶשֶׁת", conspicuously describing her precise distance in terms of the range of an arrow.
    – Fred
    Jan 5, 2016 at 23:53
  • How do we know that the phrase "... the death of her son" (בְּמוֹת הַיָּלֶד) can not also refer to "the death" that "her son" can cause?
    – ninamag
    Sep 12, 2017 at 6:06

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